Karine Simonian, Gevorg Stamboltsian cle/1851713.html

President Serzh Sarkisian arrived in the Turkish city of Bursa on
Wednesday on a brief visit that marks a new milestone in Armenia's
"football diplomacy" with Turkey praised by world powers.

Sarkisian and Turkey's President Abdullah Gul were due to attend a
return match of their countries' national soccer teams there later in
the day. The two leaders watched together the first Turkey-Armenia
match in Yerevan in September last year, giving new impetus to
fence-mending negotiations between their governments.

Sarkisian, accompanied by Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian and
other Armenian officials, arrived at Bursa airport late in the
afternoon. He was greeted there by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutoglu in an official ceremony broadcast live by Armenian and
Turkish television. Sarkisian smiled as he watched a brief performance
by Turkish folk dancers.

A statement issued by Sarkisian's office earlier in the day said the
president will first visit Armenia players and coaching staff to
"encourage" them ahead of the politically charged game. It said
Sarkisian will then go into talks with Gul that will start in a
one-on-one format and continue in the presence of senior government
from both states.

The two presidents will have dinner before heading to Bursa's Ataturk
Stadium. Gul will give a reception in honor of his Armenian counterpart
after the match. It was not clear if they will make public statements
after the talks as they did in Yerevan last year.

Turkish authorities mounted tight security measures in and around
the stadium hours before the match. Turkish media has reported that
thousands of uniformed and plainclothes security personnel will be
deployed there to avoid possible provocations. Fans will only be
allowed to carry Turkish and Armenian flags. Turkish officials have
banned fans from chanting political slogans and displaying Azerbaijani
flags at the match.

Ticket sales have been restricted, with most distributed to students
of military academies, police and their families, according to
media reports. President Gul has met with leaders of fans groups
to personally ask them not to overshadow the game and return the
"hospitality" with which he himself was greeted in Yerevan.

AFP news agency reported that in a gesture to their Armenian guests,
the Turkish fans were expected to greet them in the stadium by singing
a folk song about a blonde lover, which is popular in both Turkey
and Armenia.